I distinctly remember the sound of workers pounding on, to make the warq (silver foil) in scores of shops just before Mecca Masjid as we travelled from our ancestral house in Chandrayangutta to the new city. The huge house at the cross roads has long given way to the Inner Ring Road under the flyover and the temple in the precincts is now torn away across the road.
A trip that side tugs at my heart strings, at the way development has taken away the scent of my city. The dimly lit streets have been transformed into highways giving better connectivity. How I miss those gullies of my childhood! Thankfully, the structural changes have not impacted the soul of the city, i.e. the people.
The lingo, more importantly, is still intact. Being brought up in an environment of tehzeeb and aadaab, I find it irritating at times when people on this side of the now-dead river Musi look down upon the “old city waley” as uncouth. It’s become fashionable to say that their language has been spoilt because of the Hyderabadi Hindi and that it has drastically affected their linguistic skills as if Hindi were some kind of a ghee that they called it pure.
For me, the essence of Hyderabad is its lingo without which Hyderabad doesn’t exist. Words and phrases like haule baataan, chambu, baingan, kya to bhi hora, anjaan maarrain, kaiku, aaraun, jaaraun, maa ki kirkiri, chiccha, phutti kaudi, apart from the patented hau and nakko.
The usage of hau reminds me of an anecdote: a visitor to the city was enquiring about monuments to which some people replied jee haan and some responded with jee hau. Intrigued, the visitor spotted a decent looking guy at a pan dabba and asked him the difference between the two. The guy said, the educated normally answered as jee haan and the uneducated as jee hau, to which the visitor asked if he was educated. The guy replied jee hau. This is my Hyderabad. No matter how educated or qualified you are, you will never forget your roots. Which is why I make it a point to logically add the lingo in my plays – the one medium to keep languages and dialects afloat.
That also reminds me that the pan dabbas, Irani hotels, chabutras, and even footpaths were great centres of knowledge and political discourse, arguments, fights and of course gossip. The cuisine – it’s just not biryani aur haleem, the trade mark of our theatre play but also dishes like nihari, chakna, khichdi, khaagina, ambade ki bhaji, baghara baingan, khatti daal just to name a few.
In the midst of rapid technological development it is important to keep the culture alive. The new generation also needs to be introduced to the contagious dholak ke geet often sung at weddings and other happy occasions.
The depleting Irani hotels also worry me. Once on our way from Kondapur we were dying to have a cup of Irani chai and didn’t find one till we reached Lakdi-ka-Pul. But then on my recent visit to the Old City I didn’t hear the nostalgic sound of warq workers pounding away either.